Intimidation claims over drug handouts as addicts head to pharmacy for triple prescription

ANXIOUS residents have hit out at “intimidating” methadone users visiting a pharmacy that hands over three times their normal prescriptions.

ANXIOUS residents have hit out at “intimidating” methadone users visiting a pharmacy that hands over three times their normal prescriptions.

Concerns have been raised amongst neighbours about the behaviour of gangs of recovering drug addicts gathering at Sighthill Health Centre.

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Residents said there had been a stream of complaints to police over antisocial and threatening behaviour.

Keith Bell, right, secretary of Sighthill, Broomhouse and Parkhead community council, said residents are forced to deal with intimidation and noise from groups of loitering methadone users. He said: “We’ve had reports of people coming from across the city, as far afield as Portobello and Gilmerton, to get their methadone at this pharmacy and that’s been the case for about five years.

“We believe that people come to this particular pharmacy as they get three days’ worth of prescription in one go. It happens every Friday as the pharmacy is closed at weekends and therefore three days’ worth of medication must be dispensed.

“The prescription holders skim some off the top and trade it for other drugs. That’s something that’s been witnessed and there have certainly been complaints to the community council and the police that this is going on.

“They then congregate within Sighthill shopping ­centre where they drink tea, shout and swear, sometimes in large groups, along with their kids and dogs – and that’s where the drug swapping has been witnessed.

“If you’re an elderly person going up there and trying to make your way around, it’s fairly intimidating. There have been lots of complaints and concerns raised.”

But Mr Bell, 44, also stressed action taken by police had helped calm the situation.

He said: “The police’s Safer Neighbourhood Team along with the council’s community safety team have put on high-visibility patrols as well as plain-clothes operations to try and identify and criminal activity and also to discourage them from congregating there – the community council cannot praise them highly enough for their assistance.”

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NHS Lothian bosses insisted they were ready to help deal with antisocial behaviour. Dr Alison McCallum, director of public health and public policy, said: “The Alcohol and Drug Partnership and Community Safety Partnership both have a role to play in investigating and addressing issues raised.

“Methadone is an extensively researched, evidence-based treatment that helps people start to take control over their lives and their health. The evidence indicates that treatment with methadone saves lives, prevents infections and improves lifestyles.”

Lothian and Borders Police said it was committed to ensuring safe neighbourhoods through community initiatives.

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